The Minnesota Vikings have experienced a prolonged slate of good health in 2022, aside from injuries to rookie Lewis Cine and tight end Irv Smith.
But that ended on Saturday as third-year cornerback Cameron Dantzler was placed on injured reserve, signaling an absence of at least four games.
The Vikings were already skimpy via veteran cornerback depth, so the franchise must now depend on rookie contributions for Akayleb Evans and Andrew Booth. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted Saturday, “The Vikings are placing CB Cam Dantzler on Injured Reserve, knocking him out four games because of an ankle injury, a source said. He’s expected back this season.”
Minnesota drafted Dantzler in the 3rd Round of the 2020 NFL Draft, one of the few high-round cornerbacks that have panned out for the club. While he isn’t the top CB on the depth chart — that distinction belongs to Patrick Peterson — Dantzler is a steady starter. He’ll be missed.
Now, Ed Donatell’s defense requires immediate competency from rookies — the aforementioned Evans and Booth. Evans shined in Week 9 at Washington, earning the second-best Pro Football Focus grade among Vikings defenders. Booth, on the other hand, has hardly played in 2022 because of injuries. General manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah selected Booth in Round 2 of April’s draft, so, in theory, he should be even more game-ready than Evans. We shall see.
Through eight games, Dantzler is the team’s 16th-best player, with a 67.0 grade from PFF. He’s not a showstopper, but his performance is more than enough to be missed.
The Vikings defense ranks 16th in the NFL per passing DVOA, straddling a fine line between getting exposed, bending but not breaking, and generating opportune turnovers. Meanwhile, Minnesota will defend Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis on Sunday — not an ideal assignment for a defense coping with the loss of Dantzler.
Overall, though, this is Evans’ and Booth’s time to emerge. This is how it goes.
Dantzler will be eligible to return, if healthy, on December 11th at the Detroit Lions.
Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Viking fandom dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ and The Doors (the band).